Videos by OutKick
By Bryan Harvey
When you’re young, people tell you all sorts of stories that focus on identity, both the hiding of it and the revealing of it. I grew up reenacting scenes from popular Robin Hood folklore in the woods behind my parents’ house. I would do this with friends, cousins, and siblings, and in no strange twist of fate, the most popular roles were the title character, Little John, Will Scarlet, King Richard, and Friar Tuck, and pretty much in that order; and if those parts were all taken, as a kid you’d rather make up some part that never existed in the original than play one of the villains. No one wants to be the Sheriff of Nottingham or Prince John. Nobody. Which is why this past weekend’s Boise State-Georgia game was so damn depressing.
You can know the truth but not want to face it. You can know that there are not enough heroes in the script for everyone to play one and still think there’s no way you’re going to get stuck with playing the villain, but you will. Everyone can’t be good all the time.
And times in Georgia are not good right now. It’s gotten to where it would be no shock at all to have some animated Disney rooster singing sad folk songs at Sanford Stadium, walking across the end zone scoreboard like it was a gallows pole. Times are hard. Times are tough. And there is no denying it.
Half a decade ago, this game would not have been just another Georgia victory–it would have been a no contest. The reason we know this is because it happened.
The teams met in 2005, DJ Shockley had one of the best games of his career, and Boise State wilted in the August heat. The game didn’t redefine anything; it told everyone what they already knew, that Georgia was from the SEC and that Boise State was inferior. The strange thing is that while last Saturday’s game had the complete opposite result–Boise State in clear command except for a few big plays by UGA–it still told everything what they already knew: Boise State was favored and they won. The game was, for all intent and purposes, done the moment Boise State capitalized off an Aaron Murray interception at the end of the second quarter: Because once the Broncos scored to start the second half, the Dawgs never got any closer than fourteen points.
It all made for a sad day. Roosters were crowing. There’s no denying it.
Growing up in the 1990’s as a Georgia fan made it easy to view the team as an outlaw stealing from the rich. Florida and Tennessee were the fat, loudmouthed bullies that came around overtaxing not only the SEC East but the entire conference. Spurrier made for a good villain, and Fulmer was easy to imagine as his envious sidekick. It was tyranny, and tyranny is easy to hate; and it can make anyone desperate for a hero.
And, in the early 2000’s, there were plenty of red and black heroes: Mark Richt, David Greene, David Pollack, Matthew Stafford, and Knowshon Moreno. There was no sad crowing then. No melancholy prison blues. Just wild, outlandish outlaw tunes. But in the midst of all that noise, there was a distinct difference between the early years of the past decade and what eventually transpired.
The Georgia teams that featured Greene and Pollack were easy to imagine as scrappy underdogs, and the fact that they felt like upstarts, beggars, and farmers only made them easier to love.
It also didn’t hurt that there was an element of tenacious cunning to how they won, while the Stafford and Moreno teams won with sure might and a sense of entitlement. The stomping on the goal line against Florida was evident of this paradigm shift, and while I enjoyed it immensely at the time, in hindsight, I have to admit it’s the kind of behavior I usually look to belittle when I see it in other teams. It also was a moment that not only infuriated the Gators and brought our their wrath a year later, but it’s a moment that made rooting for Georgia a lot less like rooting for Robin Hood than rooting for Prince John, a thumbsucking lion, who gives into tantrums and stomping on a crown that doesn’t necessarily belong to him, that may indeed belong to another king, team, or coach.
Another moment that had a similar effect was the Boise State game Saturday. The entire contest was an affirmation that in the six years since the Bulldawgs dominated the Broncos that while Georgia has SEC talent, it doesn’t always play like an SEC school.
The same 300 pound linemen that displayed amazing agility and speed in chasing down Bronco running backs, from behind, were also the same linemen that impetuously over pursued in the first place, were beaten off the ball, and, ultimately, pushed around by a smaller band of merry men.
And, while the speed of Malcolm Mitchell and Brandon Boykin gave the fans in red and black reasons to smile at Georgia’s big play potential, the number of drops, poorly thrown balls, and the number of sacks taken by Aaron Murray made the faithful cringe as the team waltzed under the big lights of the Georgia Dome with the gracefulness of a sheriff’s clumsy henchmen.
And, while freshman running back Isaiah Crowell picked up sixty yards on fifteen carries and displayed signs that he has a bright future, it wasn’t exactly alms for the poor.
No, the most obvious lesson learned from this game was that no matter what costume Boise State is wearing–they are not a team you want to get into an archery contest with, that, while they may lack the size and depth of other schools, they most certainly have the heart–something that this Georgia team may or may not have.
What often gets lost in the pathos of folk singing roosters is that there is a truth beyond poplular fiction, that what everyone’s singing isn’t always how it is, that in every tale of identity there are shades of gray. And that while we all focus on trying to be Robin Hood, Prince John is a man who really lived.
The real King John was not as bad as most writers’ imaginations make him out to be–and neither, hopefully, is this Georgia team– but the real King John also was not a great king. He was a man of good and bad traits; a man of gray; a man who won and lost battles; who achieved more than the failed Crusades of his brother, in terms of organizing a country’s government, but is commonly remembered for less; a man who was excommunicated; a man who questioned the Pope’s authority; a man who was smart enough to sign the Magna Carta, when push came to shove; built a navy; was not loved; and, finally, died of dysentery, which is all much more complicated (and disgusting) than the cruel, shallow caricature that is so often painted of a man who did rule a country, sign laws, and etch his life onto a timeline, but is so often remembered for being less than his predecessors.
So Robin Hood and Boise State may have won, the game and the polls, but the real historical legacy of this year’s Georgia team has yet to be decided; and this journey will be much more grueling and complicated than a loss on opening day–after all a win next Saturday could change everyone’s tune, because that damn rooster walking the gallows will be at the game, dressed in maroon and black, crowing like some damn fool that needs an arrow through its throat. It will feel like the ’90s again, and perhaps even the shadow of a king can still pluck a bow, straight and true.